On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.
I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom Seaver, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric Hanhold, Steve Villines, Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Stephen Nogosek, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Darryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.
Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.
The Mets went to Philadelphia to take on a wounded Phillies team who was aboslutely reeling. You knew after this series one of these two teams would still be standing, and the other will look like their past offseason was all for naught. Well, the Mets bullpen would make sure that would happen:
1. As noted by Michael Mayer, the last time a team blew five games where they led by at least two runs was the 2011 Mets. No, not the last time the Mets did it – the last time anyone did it. The closer that year was Francisco Rodriguez with Pedro Beato, Bobby Parnell, and Jason Isringhausen serving as setup men. Prior to this season, no one was saying “Come get us!”
2. We can talk about different parts of this Mets team getting exposed, but no one was more exposed than Brodie Van Wagenen. He mismanaged the “crisis” with Mickey Callaway and Jason Vargas. The media reported his involvement in game decisions like removing Jacob deGrom from a game. There were reports it was more than that as well.
4. This debacle is reminiscent of the 1993 Mets with Vince Coleman throwing fireworks at fans and Bret Saberhagen dousing reporters in bleach. What’s the common denominator between those two Mets teams? The Wilpons.
5. It was good for the Wilpons to take nine years to finally do the right thing by honoring Tom Seaver. Of course, they waited so long Seaver is now suffering from dementia so he cannot travel for these honors, and he may also not have the mental faculties to enjoy the honors being bestowed upon him.
6. The article by Wallace Matthews of Yahoo is completely ridiculous. Not only does he call Vargas the team’s most reliable starter, but he gets a chance to speak with Jeff Wilpon. With that access, he talks about the incident with Tim Healey instead of literally anything else. Honestly, if Jeff wants to talk about that, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time.
7. Jeff Wilpon’s silence on the state of this team and the continual inept way it is run from a number of facets should be met by fans with silence. We could call to organize a boycott or something, but in reality, the team being this soul crushingly bad is going to keep the fans away anyway. When that happens, Jeff’s silence will be met with silence.
8. Worse than that, Jay Bruce gets a key pinch hit home run and a walk off double, Robinson Cano has multiple 0-for-5’s, and Edwin Diaz blows a save. Right there, his biggest move completely busted. Actually, that’s not fair, it was a bust long before that.
9. So much for scapegoating Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez because the Mets bullpen imploded in the four game set. Worse yet, these were games the Mets absolutely should have won:
The Mets' peak win probabilities for these four games in Philadelphia:
MON: 68.2 percent
TUES: 86.1 percent
WED: 95 percent
THRS: 92.6 percent
They went 0-4.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) June 27, 2019
10. What Dominic Smith has done this season has been nothing short of remarkable. This team needs to be smart and really look at him in left field for the rest of the year to determine if he can be a long term solution there. If nothing else, the Mets need as many cheap bats as they can get.
11. Amed Rosario has had a number of peaks and valleys, and recently, this has been a bit of a peak. Over his last 11 games, he is hitting .342/.366/.500 with four stolen bases in as many attempts. Ultimately, there still remains hope for him.
12. The Mets need to figure out what to do with Cano, and they need to figure it out sooner rather than later. Realistically speaking, he needs to be moved to a less demanding position like third base and get some days off. As each day passes, it’s clear he can’t play second everyday.
13. Moving Cano to third solves the problem there, and it allows the team to move Jeff McNeil back to second base. This should clear that spot for Smith and hopefully Brandon Nimmo if his injury proves to not be career altering.
14. Speaking of Nimmo, only the Mets could take a talented fan favorite player like him, have him get to an All Star level, and then do all they can to completely ruin him. It’s a not so fun pattern with this team.
15. Todd Frazier has done a lot to help this team and build his trade value. The problem is he’s still a rental who is not really getting you something in return. Really, if you want to make a difference at the deadline, you need to trade major pieces, but with the young talent so close, you can’t do that either.
16. Michael Conforto continues to show himself to be both a great and underappreciated player. He should be an All Star this season. If he isn’t, it’s because this team stinks, and the organization can’t be bothered to promote it’s most talented and perhaps best position player.
17. Chris Mazza getting called up at 29 years old is a feel good story. It’s a feel good story just like Tyler Pill and Drew Gagnon was before him. He should enjoy the moment, but we shouldn’t be expecting anything from him.
18. Chris Flexen looks like a real weapon in the bullpen. Brooks Pounders may become that as well. The optimistic Mets fans could look at them joining Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman in front of Diaz, who really cannot be this bad next year, to become a formidable bullpen. As Mets fans, we should know better than to hope.
19. Callaway does sound ridiculous when he says the Mets are so close, but he’s not wrong. This team continues to fight and play hard. If they had even a capable bullpen, they’d be in a much better position. If fact, this is the only team in baseball with more blown saves (20) than saves (18). If you just take back half of those blown saves, the Mets are 47-35, which puts them a game out of first place.
20. Short of honoring the 1969 Mets this weekend, and maybe sometime late in the season to see if Pete Alonso breaks some home run records, there is zero reason to go see the Mets at Citi Field other than your love of the Mets and baseball. The latter is why the Wilpons have us and will never sell the team.
With the Mets saying isn’t their type of player, the question needs to be asked about what exactly is the Mets type of player. Well, here are a few examples.
Jose Reyes – beat wife until the point she needed to be taken to a local hospital
Bartolo Colon cheated not just the game with a PED suspension, but he cheated on his wife. To top it all off, he didn’t pay sufficient child support for his second family.
Francisco Rodriguez – assaulted the grandfather of his children in three Mets family room at Citi Field
Jenrry Mejia – first ever player to be banned from baseball due to failing three PED tests
Bret Saberhahen set off firecrackers around reporters and shot bleach at them with a water gun
Vince Coleman threw firecrackers at fans which would injure a child
Wally Backman brought back to organization as a minor league manager after he had been fired by the Diamondbacks after domestic “disputes” came to light
The overriding point here is the Mets type of person wants is a hot head who beats people weaker than them. To that extent, the Mets could not have given Machado a bigger compliment.
When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.
The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby Bonilla. Under the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.
There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher. With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.
The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation. Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts. To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.
Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986. While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.
Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.
Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache. Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.
Each and every single one of them would go down with injury. Most of them went down with two or more. As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation. Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.
Finally, this year was supposed to be the year. Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year. The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff. It was all set up for them.
And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.
Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense. However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.
Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series. That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal. Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.
At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?
Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day. It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game. What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.
When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope. Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke. Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better. Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged. This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out. The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen. It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.
The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it. When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season. Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak. It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball. It was, but that’s a whole other story.
There was the devastating 2007 finale. Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins. They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs. Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team. The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game. Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.
After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home. At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game. David Wright was having a torrid September. Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players. I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month. With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .” As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla. Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.
That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale. Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be. The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter. The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale. Back then, this was considered a good thing. The offense was clicking again. However, that bullpen was just so awful. The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen. Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last. Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.
Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church. He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion. Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well? Nevermind. In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium. Many disagree, but I thought it helped.
Last year, was just a celebration. The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006. The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins. The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying. It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins. That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.
This year was something different altogether. In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column). The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under. Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game. However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.
After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.
Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single. For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play. Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:
It was that type of day for the Mets. After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday. On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double. It was easily the best game he had as a Met. His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout. Then, as Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!” No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game. It refers to the Mets offense.
Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0. It was his 30th of the year making it the first time the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows? In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single. Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks. Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 26, 2016
The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season. The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:
The final home game of the season is over, here are the all 193 home runs hit in Citi Field this season. pic.twitter.com/KHfkv3lXFP
— CitiFieldHR (@CitiFieldHR) September 25, 2016
In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game. Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit. Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0. Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home. As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.
There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be. Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field. However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007. Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”
On August 11, 1992, the Mets had a day to honor Tom Seaver for being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering he was the best pitcher in Mets history, you would think the honor of starting that game would go to Dwight Gooden, who was the only Mets pitcher who would break any of Seaver’s records. David Cone was another terrific choice given how great a pitcher he was for the Mets. Bret Saberhagen would have been fitting as he was a two time Cy Young winner and a former World Series MVP. Even Sid Fernandez could have fit the bill as it was his Game Seven performance that helped prevent Seaver from winning one last ring in 1986.
Instead, it was Eric Hillman, who was making his first ever major league start on a dark and rainy night that drove away most of the fans who should have been there to celebrate with Seaver. To be fair, that game would’ve been called almost any other night had it not been Seaver’s night. Between the weather, and who was going to be honored, it was a difficult situation for a young pitcher. Hillman was up to the challenge pitching eight scoreless innings to help defeat the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.
With Monday’s rainout, the Mets will be in a similar position for Mike Piazza‘s number retirement ceremony.
It was supposed to be Noah Syndergaard. Who better to celebrate the career of the Mets rock star catcher than to have the Mets rock star starting pitcher? Who better to honor the power Piazza showed at the plate than the power pitcher who can routinely throw over 100 MPH? The long haired starting pitcher dominating the opponents should have started the game honoring the long haired dominant hitter. It was all too perfect to be true. With the rain, it’s not going to happen.
Instead, the Mets are most likely going to get a spot starter making his first ever major league start similar to what happened with Eric Hillman on Tom Seaver’s night. It just seems to go that way on a night when the Mets honor their Hall of Famers.
The start could to to Seth Lugo, who has pitched extremely well out of the bullpen in his four appearances this year. Gabriel Ynoa could be summoned from the minor leagues to make his first ever start as could his Las Vegas 51s teammate Robert Gsellman. Whoever it turns out to be, they have some large shoes to fill. No, not Syndergaard’s, the 6’10” Hillman’s. Whoever the Mets give the chance to make his first ever career start needs to go out there and put up a dominant performance like Hillman’s to allow the fans to celebrate deep into the night.
With one bold move, the Mets completely transformed their team with the acquistion of Mike Piazza. While he was not immediately adored (he was replacing the injured fan favorite Todd Hundley), he became a beloved Met.
To understand the Piazza adoration, you first have to understand what was happening. Honestly, I think things were worse in 1998 than they were now. The Mets were in year 10 of a rebuild from the glorious 80’s teams. That involved every player Mets fans loved leaving the team. The first step in the rebuild was The Worst Team Money Could Buy. This started some depressing baseball.
After that was the Vince Coleman firecracker incident. There was also the Bret Saberhagen bleach incident. The fans took everything out on Bobby Bonilla, who would wear earplugs to drown out the booing. It’s hard to see a team lose without trying. It’s worse to see a team try and be incompetent in doing so.This all set the Mets back years. Throw in the 1994 season ending strike, and you had the nadir of Mets baseball in my lifetime.
Nope, it wasn’t quite the nadir yet. The rebuild for the 90’s Mets was based on the same theory as the current Mets. It was based upon pitching. The problem is it didn’t work in the 90’s. The Mets entrusted Generation K to Dallas Green. All of the arms burned out. They were all injured under his watch. The Mets switched to Steve Phillips and Bobby Valentine, and things started getting better. It’s hard to imagine it, but 88 wins felt like the Mets had actually won something.
Part of the reason is the Mets acquired Mike Piazza. He came to the Mets in 1998 and he hit .348/.417/.607 with 23 homers and 76 RBI in 109 games. He did what Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes did in 2015. He carried the team for almost a whole season. He transformed the team. The Mets had no choice but to bring him back.
In 1999, he became the second Met to hit 40 home runs in a season. He led the team to the playoffs (even if they needed a play-in game to get there). He hit a homerun in the 1999 NLCS that I seriously thought was going to help propel the Mets to win Game 6 and complete the then impossible:
In 2000, he again led the Mets to the postseason. For much of that year, he was considered an MVP candidate. Unfortunately, the Mets lost as Piazza’s ball didn’t carry far enough. It was a shame because Piazza was the reason Mets fans had pride. He was the reason the Mets fans believed they could win it all. He was the reason the Mets could step toe to toe with the Yankees.
They did. There were some epic games between the two teams back when the Subway Series mattered. Everyone remembers the Matt Franco single, but they forget the two Piazza bombs in that game:
Did you see where that ball went? How epic was that bat flip? He was a dangerous and feared hitter. It’s why Roger Clemens went after him not once but twice. But getting back to the home runs, it was one of several huge home runs he hit for the Mets. Do you remember the homerun he hit against the Braves capping off a huge comeback:
I remember being there that night. It was insane. That homerun sums up his tenure with the Mets perfectly. Even against teams like the seemingly unbeatable Braves and Yankees, the Mets always had a chance no matter how bleak the odds were. Seeing those highlights made me a little emotional. That reminds me of this moment:
To me, that’s still the greatest homerun ever hit. If you didn’t forever love and respect Piazza before that night, you did now. It’s part of the reason why after he left Mets fans still cheered him. I know I returned in 2006 for his first game back. It was important for me to cheer the man that meant so much to Mets fans:
I remember the constant standing ovations and cheering his name. I just wish I was there for the next night when he got a curtain call:
Seriously, how many visiting players get a curtain call? This moment shows how much Piazza means to Mets fans. We loved him. It seems he loved us back. He came back to close out Shea and open up Citi Field. He is now the guy who throws out the first pitch at World Series games.
Whether it’s today or in the future, Mike Piazza will be a Hall of Famer. He deserves it. Mets fans deserve it. It’s important to a of us. We want to see him recognized for all he did for the Mets and all Mets fans. My favorite Mets teams were the ones with Mike Piazza. He’s my favorite Met. He’s my favorite player.
It’s important to me and all Mets fans he gets elected to the Hall of Fame.